Saturday, December 24, 2011

And I Heard Him Exclaim...

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good knight!


Maria, Delia, Max and Benji, William, Geoff, Alex, Suki :: Bird House Thanksgiving

"Are you ready?"
That's what people ask, more often, the closer we get to Christmas Day.
And I say "Yes."
I think of my children, and Geoff, all residents of the Bird House. I think of our home, and the comforts we have here. I think of my extended family, my friends. I smile. I think of the dirty laundry which has blocked the door to the laundry closet and refuses to submit to my will, and I grin knowingly. I think of the special gifts I have stashed away, and the gifts that will be sent late, and the gifts I'll never track down. I think of the tamales I have not made, and the cards I won't send. It only takes a moment to assess all of this, and still I smile and say "Yes."

James, Maria, Sammay, Suki, Alex :: Mission to Mars

I don't need a parking space at the mall, or bows and perfect wrapping. I've had my fill of delicious cookies! And every time we have gathered with family and friends, I have thought: This is my Christmas, this is my peace and joy.

Natalie, Geoff, Alex, Suki :: Slightly Twisted*

It may be messy, and incomplete, it may tempt me to bite my lip, or feel a bit frazzled... but I know where my blessings come from, and they are plentiful and good. I am already having a Merry Christmas... sometimes easily... sometimes defiantly!

William :: Gingerbread engineer

Thank you, all. For comments, for reflections, for gifts, for cards, for encouragement.

Max :: Tree Walker

Maria :: Fearless Leaper

Face to face friends, blog friends, anonymous friends, cousins and brothers, sisters, familia, all of you... my wish for you is peace and laughter, joy in the midst of the setbacks and messes, light, your favorite traditions, companionship, wonder, warmth, healing comfort, and a Happy New Year!

Now that I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, I am going to shove my way into the laundry room and smite some foes! God bless us, everyone.

*Update... for Max's sake: These are not real cigarretttes cigerettes cigarehettes smokey sticks. Heck, I don't even know how to spell "cigarettes." They are candy. We will rot our teeth before we tarnish our lungs. This image is meant to be humorous and not an endorsement of tabacky. When I was five years old I would walk to the Rexall on Main Street, in Ramona, and buy candy. I liked the wax bottles with colored sugar water, the Chick-o-Sticks, and the bubble gum cigarettes. When you blew through them, cornstarch smoked out the end, and I found that endlessly fascinating. It did not tempt me to pick up real smokey sticks. It did not lure me down a path of hard drinking, gambling, or cussing. Okay. I did do cuss a bit, but I can quit anytime! Anyway. That's about it. Smoking is harmful. Don't do it. Candy cigarettes are hilarious. Thank you. Sorry. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Midnight In The Bird House

Lisa, Maria, Erika, Darrahl

Matt was still in Pennsylvania when we had last week's movie night. So, in his honor, we let Matt make a movie choice for this week's movie night. And that, dear friends, is how the Bird House came to have a double feature of Midnight in Paris, and Men In Black.

The other detail to make the evening special?
Isaac cooked!
Who remembers last year and Isaac's handmade ramen?

It was about an hour before guests were due to arrive, when William and I were talking about food, about how I completely forgot to make dinner plans. The Santa Ana winds were blowing biting cold air, and I suddenly craved soup. I said, "Darn. I wish I had thought to make some of that minestrone soup. A blustery day like this calls for soup!" And then. The phone rang. Even without caller id, I'd know that sweet voice anywhere. It was Isaac, calling to ask of he could try a new soup recipe out, in the Bird House kitchen?

Cook? Food? In our kitchen? Feed us?

Yes! Yes, please, Isaac!

He made himself very busy, enlisting help as he went, and before long we were all favored with big bowls of vibrant green broccoli soup, with walnuts, and honeyed goat cheese. Yes, honey infused goat cheese! <--- that was my favorite part.
Hey, Nick! Hey, Matt!

Check me out: I baked croissants, and made extra rich European style hot chocolate. Get it? Midnight in Paris? I thought it was very thematic and hostess-y of me.

Lisa, Maria, Annie, Erika, and the dreidel.

I knew about "Nun, Gimmel, Hei, and Shin," but I did not know they form an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – "a great miracle happened there."

Maybe Erika knows who the big winner was? I think everyone came out ahead... happy!

Nick was noting Hazel's fierce and natural, realistic features. Matt told us about the Pennsylvania Screaming Squirrel. Apparently they wake unsuspecting Californians with a sudden, wicked scream, staring menacingly at their victim. Intense.

Bonsoir, Maria!

She even has a classy French manicure, thanks to a birthday gift from Aunt Gretchen.

On ukulele-drum, we have James!

Now this. This is inspiring me to host a whole new party theme: Band Night. An early Christmas present arrived for Suki, and to welcome her banjolele into the fold, James, Grant, Eli, and Lisa brought out musical instruments, and a concert in the Bird House entry took form.

On kalimba, we are happy to introduce Grant!

Warming up and tuning her banjolele, Suki!

The newest member of the house band, on recorder, Lisa!

Eli alternated between autoharp, and a Chinese gourd flute!

I love movie night. I love our friends. I love the hum and the buzz of warm company and laughter. I love this holiday season with old traditions, and new traditions taking shape. I love that Matt went all over town, did not give up or surrender, and finally successfully procured a copy of Men in Black! I love that Geoff came home in time to see the best parts of Midnight in Paris, and that without having to go to work today, he could stay up late for the second feature. I love hot chocolate and croissants. I love that someone arrived this morning, and offered to clean up...

Brave, brave!
Brave Sir Robin!
Thank you.
Just start with those dishes, and when you're done, I'll show you the laundry room.

"What? Behind the rabbit?"

"It is the rabbit!"

Lady Betty Orpington of Bird House Castle

Well, it looks like Sir Robin has met the Lady Betty Orpington.
He looks a bit shocked.
Perhaps he was not expecting a chicken.
Take care Sir Robin... chickens like shiny things!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

He's Not Chicken!

Oh dear!

This proves it. Sir Robin is very near indeed. In fact he must be somewhere in the yard, but how to get passed the felines of unusual size? Sir Robin, draw your sword, stand tall! Sir Benjamin only wants a good joust, but I am sure he is a chivalrous fellow.

And... uh... Sir Robin, you may encounter other beasties if you continue around outside. I don't know if anyone has ever warned you... the entrance to our home is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived. I suggest you carry a carrot. Your sword will not avail you.

Sir Robin Reaching New Heights and Hanging On!

I think he must be close.

A journey all the way from Camelot, is a journey of many days and obstacles, particularly when traveling without a horse, or airline tickets.

On behalf of Sir Robin, I am wishing all travelers a safe and easy journey... may you reach your destination in comfort, and find yourself amidst family, friends, and good cheer.

Sir Robin What is Your Quest?

Brave Sir Robin, what are you doing up in that tree?
Is the Bird House in sight?
Did you enjoy the beautiful lights and music at the Living Lights Project?

Well. Did you spend the whole night in the tree? Goodness.

We had a very comfortable night, thank you. Dinner was filling, and good. The lights in the tree were bright.

Are you staying the course? I'll listen for you... in case you knock. Someone was saying, "Everyone knows that when danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled." We hope you can remain steadfast, earnest, and true.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sir Robin Sends Word...

Bravely, Sir Robin sent word that before coming here, to the Bird House, he is stopping by to see the Living Lights Project! He wants everyone to know about the fun and creative endeavor SDA students and alumni have undertaken in order to raise money for The Community Resource Center. This is a musical light show, well worth the visit, and worthy of our charitable contributions...

"Living Lights Project is a holiday light show raising money for our charity, The Community Resource Center of Encinitas. We take holiday lighting to the next year by synchronizing thousands of holiday lights and decorations to the beat of both classic holiday tunes, and modern music. Our first year was the 2010 holiday season, and we intend for our show to continue every year, and to continue to grow.

The show is run by converting standard Christmas lights to a computerized flashing and changing lighting sequence. We use hardware made by Light-O-Rama, controlling 96 channels of lights. In addition we also use DMX interfaces for some of our more impressive effects including strobe lights, and new this effects.

December 18th - 24th
6:00PM, 6:30PM, 7:00PM, 7:30PM"

Thank you, Sir Robin. And please, be careful out there! Avoid bridges near volcanoes, and outdoor fire rings.

The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin

Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot.
He was not afraid to die, O brave Sir Robin!
He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways,
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin!

Bravely, bold Sir Robin strolled forth without a horse.
He was not afraid to go, though he does not know the way!
O brave Sir Robin will ye find the road? He's a bold man, not a mouse.
On his way to the big blue house for a Merry Christmas Day!

Stay tuned for regular updates on Brave Sir Robin's progress.
Will he arrive in time for Christmas morning?
Will he encounter foul beasties?
Will he know the capital of Assyria?

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Ungulates Were Harmed In The Making of This Post

Alternate titles:

So Many Cookies!
Friends, Films, and Food!
Sandy, Hand Over Your Family's Secret Cookie Recipe!

What I wanted: A movie night with friends, an excuse to bake favorite cookies, an opportunity to spread holiday cheer.

What I got: The best gifts of the season... laughter, companionship, good food and sharing (sharing is a key component of "good food",) a lot of happy memories, and a beautiful reminder of how rich our lives are, because of our friends.

James has been accepted to the school of his choice. He leaves in January. Massachusetts is lucky to have him. James, congratulations!

*Please note that I did not discourage him, or beg him not to leave us. I am practicing maturity and selflessness. We're going to miss him. A lot.

Suki and Alex have been accepted to schools too, but I am not letting them leave. No. They are better off here. We need them. They can't leave us! It's too much! It's too soon! Noooo!

**Please note: I need more practice.

These people. I love these people.

I made five six seven different cookies!
So much dough!
The chickens gave their all to keep the bakery operating on full power!
So many eggs!

Chocolate Sugar, with cinnamon and cayenne pepper
Maria's Lemon Garden cookies
Chocolate chip cookies, with oats, please
Jammie Dodgers
Oatmeal Raisin
Vanilla Sugar cookies
Peppermint cookies

James came early to get his hands on some dough. They started with one plan, but quickly moved on to a less conventional approach. Cookies were Incepted... cookies within cookies, within cookies. At times they were like four cookies down.

I wonder what Crumpet thought of all this activity? Suki's little fish is always there. Quietly observing. Almost stalking us, in her stealthy, murderous way. She will nibble you. She's done unspeakable things.


Where was I... ?

So much attention to detail. All this focus and work for a cookie. Imagine what they could do with metal, paint, gears, wire...

Squirrel and Moose-tache

They could build a robot squirrel... with a thing... a hand? It would be a robot nut cracker... picking, and cracking nuts.

Nick arrives in time to lend his cookie wisdom and genius. They invited him to cut cookies, and he knew right away what to do. "A bell makes a good Darth Vader head," he shared with his receptive friends. And so the fun kept rollin'

Enchiladas are in the oven. William and I made five trays of cheesy-saucy goodness. Diana is on her way with Charles, Eric, Lucas, and Max, and they have pizza, and tickets to the Badger game. Okay, they shared the pizza, but the Rose Bowl tickets are too good to share. We understand.

Nick and Maria

Nick is showing Maria the ways of The Force, and chocolate, and rolling dough. They have gone to the dark chocolate side.

I love it when William smiles.
I love it when I make my goofy jokes, ridiculous puns, geek references, and he still smiles.
Thank you, William.
I love you.

Not cookies. Geekies. Warm, delicious, homemade geekies.

The Bird House filled up. Guests kept arriving, departing, returning... until the midnight hour. There was so much good, so much happy, so much sharing, and mirth.

Amusement, esp. as expressed in laughter: "his six-foot frame shook with mirth".

I wanted to make sure that was the word. Yeah, definitely: Mirth.

Andy, Nick, Tots, and Eli

Four engineers, four FIRST 2102 Team Paradox engineers, on hand to oversee the construction of Darth Vader's cookie mask. Passion FIRST is everywhere.

James demonstrates heat transference with Me Gusta.
I like it.

Our friends are so generous, and full of surprises. Belinda came with cookies and a cookie jar! She made her delicious ginger snaps and shared the recipe.
The recipe. The recipe I vow to strictly follow the next time I attempt to make B's delicious cookies!

Also, please note the white plate with powdered cookies. Those came with Andy, sent by Olivia and Sandy. I tried to hide them, to scurry away with them, unseen, but I failed. And now they are gone. Everybody fortunate enough to have one of these cookies asked me about them, raved about them. Sandy. give. us. your. secret. recipe! Or better yet, keep 'em coming. Make it a tradition. You bake, and we will rave, and thank you.

And now, a joke:

Darth Vader: Luke, this is your father. I know what you're getting for Christmas... a cookie of my head.

Luke: That's impossible!

Darth Vader: I felt your presents.

"Just for once, let me look at your face with my own eyes."

"Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them."

Nick, "Obi-Wan has taught you well."

"You are unwise to lower your defenses!"

Whoa, a talking cookie. But we ate him anyway.

Lining up for choco-milk, Andy, Nate, Sammay, and Maria.
I see Annie behind the Rosemary.

I want to say Hi to everyone who came, and thank them for making it such an amazing night. The trouble is, I know I will leave someone out, like Stan, or Bobbie, or Sharon. Or what if I forgot Kyle and Emma, or Kiley, or Claire? I would feel real bad. So. If you came, or tried to come, or wanted to but couldn't, or came then left early, or arrived late: Thank you! Thank you so much! You made my holidays really special, and good.

Darrahl and Nathan and A Grand Day Out

Dim the lights, pass the popcorn. Shhhhhh... the movie is starting.

We'll remember this night for a long time...

I Grant you... friends, films, food, and ungulate towers of holiday joy.